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Interview conducted April 6 2022
Interview published April 14 2022

"There is a story about our first artwork, Scratch And Bite. I wear my mother's stuff."

Swedish melodic hard rockers Treat put out their new album The Endgame on April 8th and Metal Covenant was 2 days prior given an opportunity to talk with guitarist Anders Wikström and singer Robert Ernlund.

Tobbe: The new record really feels like a Treat record. Good melodic hard rock songs. What's your take on this?

Anders: Well, it has been a long process. We started with the record already in 2020. So there was no stress. We didn't have so much to do. Someone had thrown some gravel on the skating rink, so you couldn't skate, you know. So we had to do something else. But, you know, I think we like doing records this way, really. We did it in two rounds, where we recorded six songs in each round.

And before we started recording we did like this: "Let's do it old school and go down and rehearse the songs in a rehearsal room!". And then we started to arrange stuff properly like we were used to doing it in the '80s. So it was kind of done in a classic way. It feels like this record turned out sincere and honest, and not so much fix and tricks. It is what it sounds like.

(Robert:) And it was even like, like with Nalle [Påhlsson] who was like "Oh, what the hell. Now I have the time so I can even redo my bass.". So he redid it. And the Corona made that possible. Everything stood still and we felt like "Now we can stand tall and do that something extra when we have the time for it.". And that was great and I think when you hear it you can see that the end result came out nice.

(Anders:) When we came back and made Coup De Grace in 2010 we took a melodic leap into a little modern era. And to the better, I think. Because since then we have been able to have new songs in our setlist and it has just become better. And even our fans think that, you know. There's a good balance.

And now we have come so far on that road, and that mindset is with us, so maybe now some old stuff comes back to us again, that is reminiscent of very early Treat. It's in there. I think it feels like a genuine Treat record. Really, you know.

Tobbe: Why did you choose to name the album The Endgame?

Anders: This is the way it is: There are two things you can think of when you look at it. Partly you can look at our history. We have come pretty far. We are celebrating 40 years next year, believe it or not. It's a little summary; an endgame is kind of what it is. But I wanted to put a twist to it as we were working on the illustration for the artwork. You know, the one with those two black chaps who are going toward a light somewhere.

At that point a thought occurred to me, like "Which really is the greatest fight a person can experience? It's his birth, I guess.". That's a real fight, you know. And from that you get some perspective on everything. So I think it was a bit of a funny twist with the idea for the artwork and the title.

Tobbe: Your voice, Robert. I must say that it really does well with Treat's music. How do you nurse it?

Robert: I don't really know. Well, I maintain my voice. That I do. I sing every now and then. Because it's still a muscle and if you don't keep track of it, then it's over. It has felt pretty easy to sing. Or maybe easier, better, simpler, quicker.

(Anders:) He is someone that is never hoarse. (Robert:) Yes, I don't know what hoarse is. (Anders:) I have never heard you getting hoarse during a gig, or after a gig, or anything. It's like you have a steel wire in your throat.

(Robert:) I remember when we recorded Dreamhunter. We were doing choirs and I was singing for eight hours straight. It felt like having a pipe here [points on his throat], but the voice was fine. So I'm really happy about not getting hoarse, and above all I never lose my pitch.

(Anders:) Yes, this is obviously nice for us. Singers can be amazing, but they might have a lot of problems with their voice and keeping it in shape. It could be the slightest thing, like a cold, and everything is ruined. So we are very lucky that it's working so great.

Tobbe: In the songwriting process, do you always have Robert's voice in mind?

Anders: I write a lot and I know which keys that work with his voice. We could probably work with this even more, but, you know, sometimes you just have to find a good balance. But we try it out, and I'm there when we record all the vocals, so there is a lot of communication between us.

Tobbe: You mentioned earlier that you were rehearsing like in the '80s and, even if I personally wouldn't want that, did the thought ever occur to you to make the album sound more like an '80s album? I think it sounds very modern now, you know.

Anders: Well, it just comes out that way and we work with producers that work with modern music all the time and who are younger than we are. What we did was that we said "We go into a good studio, lay down the drums and then we keep the sound that we find, and don't change drum sound and stuff like that.", which you often do, to make it sound okay.

That's what I mean about the record turning out sincere, that we try to keep what really is recorded and come so close to the core as we possibly can. The twangs of the '80s are pretty exaggerated today. If you listen to it there are grand room acoustics. But you want a sound picture that must work, and we have a lot of music in our songs.

You know, there are a lot of choirs, there are a lot of keyboards, there are a lot of guitars, so there are many things that battle in the sound picture. And with this, as we were mixing the record, we actually also made a decision, which I think is quite mature, that things must be removed, that things had to be taken away, that we had to reduce things to get closer to what is the band's live performance.

(Robert:) There are some great words: "The best music is the silence.". If silence didn't exist it would have been really thick. The pauses are necessary.

Tobbe: I will definitely not say that the songs are similar to one another, but there is a Treat sound over each and every song. Do you guys sometimes feel that you could vary yourselves a little bit more? I'm not saying that it's something that I would want you to do, but…

Anders: And I think that we have varied ourselves quite a lot on this record…

Tobbe: Yes, but it's so Treat. Everything. I could put on whichever song and, like, "It's Treat.".

Anders: Yes, but that's what happens when we in some way try to get it together in a way that for us is achievable. But sure, we could take giant leaps sideways. We have actually written many more songs for this record than what is on the record.

And we also, democratically, choose the songs for the record and thereby it becomes like sort of the best songs in everyone's eyes win. So a Treat record is what comes out. It has to be like that. We want to take some steps sideways, like here and there, but it has to unite in some way, and it does that when we play them.

(Robert:) I think it's also clever to retain the sound. People should hear immediately that it's Treat, because that is a strength. It turns out that there are so many people who like that. So we try to maintain that and it's foolish to take too long steps sideways. At least that's what I believe.

(Anders:) And it depends on the song, If a song would have a very special character and everyone feels that it's cool we would most likely give it a try too. That's what it's based on. But we wouldn't do it just for the sake of it.

Tobbe: And those extra songs you mentioned. Will you put out some of them along the road, as singles, Spotify, or whatever?

Anders: Well, we will see. We have recorded more songs too. So as time goes on there will surely come some stuff. Today there is a lot to gain from doing that. (Robert:) That's something I think you should give the fans as well. When things have settled down after a while, and then suddenly there is another Treat song out.

Tobbe: I wouldn't want a longer record, because if you would add, like, four songs, then it would be kind of too much. [The Endgame has 12 songs and about 55 minutes of playing time.]

Robert: Yes, then it would be kind of tiresome. That would be too much. (Anders:) Yes, we can't do that. I think it's close to maximum already as it is in order to retain the listeners. And above all on the streaming platforms. People must have the energy, you know. It's actually only die-hard fans who have the energy to go through entire records.

And those people just want more. They already want the next record tomorrow. That's the way they ask me, you know. So it is kind of extreme. But the way it looks like today is that you should fill the space between records and now we have also started to follow that idea.

Tobbe: Well, just try it. There's no right or wrong, I guess.

Anders: You know, people make EPs and stuff today. It's called an EP even if it actually contains a fewer number of songs. But we have always been a strict album band, because we come from the physical album history, you know. So for us it's like "You make a record, release a single, and then release another single.".

We see this as a physical thing in front of us the whole time and the way of thinking to release a song every month or every other month, as the new bands do because they're working on streaming platforms exclusively, is something that we haven't adapted to at all. And I actually think that it would be hard for us to do that, because we don't work like that as a band.

When we're working with Treat, then we're working to a hundred percent with it, but when we don't do that we live separate lives, you know. It's just the way it has developed to over the years. I mean, we have hung out so many hours together, in the rehearsal room, and me and Robban have grown up using the same stairwell, so.

We know each other so well, so it's just that phone call, "Okay. Are we rolling up our sleeves now? Is it time? - Okay, let's go.". But otherwise we live separate lives, so it has to be something around a project.

Tobbe: Strictly career-wise: What might a new record do for Treat in 2022? Is this actually just an extension, you know?

Anders: That's a good question. Well, I don't know what it might do. Hopefully it can at least make some of our friends happy. It might make us feel that the music keeps us a little bit younger still. But, as long as we can find inspiration and we think it's fun to write music, then at least I will do it. The day I feel that I do it for other reasons, then I just wouldn't do it anymore. It's just because I love to do it, you know. And when we play and get it together, then everybody thinks it's really great.

(Robert:) And you get gigs from it too. Monsters Of Rock, this cruise thing, we just got that for 2023. And that's really fun. We wouldn't have gotten that gig unless we made a record, of course. And other stuff keeps coming too.

(Anders:) Of course it's a momentum and a window is opening when you make records and we have to feed on that, like everyone else do. But those times when people said "Now we're going out on tour for three months with another band, who you will share bus with." are gone. It's kind of hard to say yes to that nowadays.

I have already said no to that kind of stuff now, because I know that it wouldn't work for us. To sleep on the bus floor for two and a half months is kind of hard for guys our age. It doesn't have anything to do with the shows, but it's that type of living, you know. It's not really our thing anymore.

Tobbe: As a musician you can keep doing this for a pretty long time and just keep going even if you're aging.

Anders: Absolutely. I mean, if we would have been Rolling Stones and could bring our families on tour and live the life that they are able to do, then there would be no problem. Everyone would have jumped onboard. But, you know, it's this thing to go away from home, and stuff like that. We're working with other stuff as well, so we have to keep that in mind and we must be able to combine this, you know.

Tobbe: In the streaming world this new record might be old in May.

Anders: A record becomes old pretty quickly no matter what you do. If I'm gonna be completely honest, I think that a record could be dead in two days, at least in social media. Everything is awesome in the two first days, then it becomes silent. That is, I think, a problem that we have to deal with. You must let the fans keep that banner high later. A lot of people react in the beginning, but then it becomes really silent.

And how you are able to keep it alive, I don't know. Maybe it's just to go out and play, you know. But records must get a chance to grow a little bit. If I may say that record's name again, Coup De Grace. I have a lot of reviews still in my possession from that record. I receive that from our label. Not everyone thought that it was a classic when it came out. That came later.

So you have to let music get the time it takes to grow. I mean, Smoke On The Water wasn't a hit in that sense immediately. It became a classic over the years, you know. Rock has a different kind of lifespan in that sense, I think.

(Robert:) Back catalogues might be pretty extensive, really. We release a record now and some people go, "Oh, this is a great band. I love the song Home Of The Brave. What else have they done?". And then they find out that we have another eight records and then people start buying stuff.

(Anders:) I've noticed that we're starting to get a younger audience now. I mean, we have an audience our age and then we have an audience that's two generations younger than us. My daughters are kind of in that audience. They love the new album. They think it's amazing. And they haven't said that in that way before. I usually try new music with them, like, "What do you think?". Like what 19-20 year olds think about it.

(Robert:) On Deluxe [Instrument store], where I work, a group of youngsters come in. They are probably around 18 years old and they look exactly the way I did in '85, you know. The same clothes, the same belts, everything, and they just love it. They are playing too, and I have helped them out a little bit. The classic studded belts, they have everything. Torn sweaters, like we had, that we made ourselves. It's really nice, you know.

(Anders:) There is a story about our first artwork, Scratch And Bite. I wear my mother's stuff. Like "Oh, my mother's vest. Maybe I could rip that apart a little bit.". You know, we did stuff like that. We found a way to get that look. There were no stores that sold this kind of stuff, so we just had to put it together ourselves.

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